Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has announced its first data center region in the Middle East, with three availability zones planned for Bahrain by “early 2019,” according to the company.

Launched in 2006, AWS serves companies of all sizes with cloud computing capabilities, negating the need for them to have their own on-site servers. AWS currently offers server infrastructure in 16 regions, including seven in the Americas (across the U.S., Canada, and Brazil), three in Europe (across the U.K., Ireland, and Germany), and six in Asia Pacific (across Singapore, Japan, Australia, South Korea, India, and China).

For 2018, Amazon has already announced a host of new regions around the world (including in the Nordics), while additional server infrastructure will also be arriving in new regions in France, China, and Hong Kong over the next year.

Battle heats up

The Middle East represents a notable move for AWS as the battle for the cloud services market intensifies. Earlier this year, rival Microsoft beat both Google and Amazon to announce its first African data centers, which are expected to open in 2018, while last week Microsoft revealed it was adding availability zones (different geographical locations within a region) to its Azure cloud platform. Earlier this month, Google opened its first Cloud Platform regions in Germany and Brazil, the latter representing its first in South America. However, AWS has offered a cloud region in Brazil since way  back in 2011, while Microsoft followed suit three years later.

“AWS customers are already making use of 44 availability zones across 16 geographic regions,” noted Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at AWS. “Today’s announcement brings the total number of global regions — operational and in the works — up to 22.”

Amazon is the first of the three companies to announce a cloud region in the Middle East, and it should go some way toward helping AWS attract new customers in the area — local server infrastructure means lower latency and faster data transfer speeds. The news also comes just a few months after Amazon completed its $580 million acquisition of Souq, the Middle East’s biggest ecommerce site. And the company recently announced plans to open new AWS offices in Dubai and Bahrain.

“As countries in the Middle East look to transform their economies for generations to come, technology will play a major role, and the cloud will be in the middle of that transformation,” said AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

Additionally, Amazon revealed plans to open a new CloudFront Edge location (effectively a conduit for end users to access cached content with lower latency) in the United Arab Emirates in 2018.